I spent most of yesterday methodically attempting to recreate the Easter egg dyes from my childhood. They were great - they were oil based, so the colors floated on the surface of the water, and you swirled the eggs down through - it made the most beautiful patterns. Well, they don't make it any more. I guess the formula has changed hands a few times: the internet intimates a series of buy-outs and maybe a bankruptcy, and the guy who currently owns it is apparently is waiting for an offer of big money. Yeah - that's not going to happen.
The formula, however, looks deceptively simple: resins, mineral spirits, vanillin, and less than 1% certified coal tar colors. Working backwards, "coal tar colors" was the trade name for aniline dyes - I can get powdered, food-safe aniline dyes. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the vanillin was just to make the mineral spirits less offensive. That said, it WAS the '70s, so what's a little mineral spirits in your food? The mineral spirits and the resins are clearly the meat of the matter. Mineral spirits is pretty straightforward, and if labeling conventions were the same then as they are now, the label order implies a small bit about the proportions to the resins.
"Resins." That's the devil in here. To make it worse, I'm trying to remember technical details of something I last worked with when I was eight years old. I remember the dyes floating on the surface of the water in gobbets like oil - and you could move them around and they maintained drop integrity fairly well. Your dip was a one shot deal - once the egg went down through the surface, you were done - nothing further would adhere to it. They were kind of oily when they came out, they were sticky while they were drying, and they took *forever* to dry completely. Something like 24 hours.
Now, to ME, that looks like a drying oil - the various cooking oils wouldn't dry at all, but the drying oils such as stand oil or linseed oil would. But I can't make it work.
I spent all day playing with various proportions of linseed oil and mineral spirits, and I can't replicate it - and I don't know enough chemistry to approach it logically. I know that "resins" can mean lots of different things, and "'70s ere food-safe" narrows it down some, but not enough for the layman. Not sure where I go from here. I was really excited about this combination, but it just didn't pan out the way I wanted. Maybe next year.
And in other news, I'm trying to make a poppyseed roll recipe that my dad emailed to me. He said that it sounded just like the one his (recently discovered to be Hungarian) grandmother used to make. I mentioned it to my mother so that she would know what I was bringing, and opened a can of worms. "Oh - I wish I'd known. I have mom's recipe." Sigh. His grandmother's recipe vs. her mother's recipe. I'm thinking I can't win here. I did ask her to send Grandma's (she was Polish) over, but that got complicated. I guess she has a whole packet with Grandma's recipe, other people's recipes, clippings from the St. Paul paper with directions for poppyseed preparation... or to put it another way, a collection of recipes for various poppyseed rolls that only a community of Roman Catholic Polish ladies could accumulate. So I'll only make one, and we'll go over all the other stuff while I'm down there. It'll give us something to talk about aside from the (un)employment situation.